The Avocado Mascot You Probably Forgot Existed

When thinking of food mascots, what often comes to mind are over-the-top figures with larger-than-life personalities like Tony the Tiger and the Kool-Aid Man. Food mascots frequently are used to appeal to kids (via Salud America!), as with high-sugar cereals (Toucan Sam, Lucky the Leprechaun), drinks (the Nesquik Bunny), and other unhealthy snacks — Chester Cheetah skateboarding over a wave of Cheetos snacks; Burger King's Hamburgler unable to resist a hot juicy patty left unattended; the Keebler Elves running in and out of a tree with trays of fudge-frosted cookies (per The Daily Meal).

As such, it might seem strange to associate such outsized figures with vegetables. It's kind of hard to imagine, right? Well, in the '90s, it wasn't just Cheetos and Kool-Aid featuring big personalities in sunglasses. While avocados are ubiquitous now and you can't open a menu or browse recipes without coming across avocado toast or guac, there was a time when avocados were a hard sell. Often tough and scaly, some people just didn't know what to do with them. In fact, domestic sales of the fruit (yup, it's a fruit) were so low that the U.S. banned avocado imports until the late 1990s because the market couldn't support competition from international growers (via USAID). One of the many ways the California Avocado Commission tried to change people's minds about the quirky-looking delicacy was a spokesperson (via The Atlantic). Or spokesfruit, rather.

Looking for Mr. Ripe

After trying a few rebrandings, PR firm Hill & Knowlton set out to make avocados the embodiment of California cool when they introduced the world to Mr. Ripe Guy (via The Atlantic). A giant avocado in shades and high-top sneakers, Mr. Ripe guy spread the word about avocados' health benefits, delicious flavor, and silky texture when he wasn't riding around in his avocado-colored Mazda. Mr. Ripe Guy, played by someone wearing a plush avocado costume, appeared on talk shows and at events, visited people in their homes to deliver the bounty of avocados (as reported by The New York Times), and even dipped his green toe in the dating pool.

In 1995, it was announced that the search was on for Ms. Ripe. A personals ad was placed in newspapers reading, "SCA (Single California Avocado) is searching for a FHNWP (Fun Health Nut with Personality) ... who shares his California attitude and fun-loving lifestyle" (per Nebo). The winner of the nationwide matchmaking contest received a walk-on role on Baywatch Nights, the Baywatch brand itself being an embodiment of the fun-loving, health-conscious, sun-drenched California dream behind Mr. Ripe. Sadly, few images of the dashing avocado survive, and like Baywatch Nights, a spin-off where David Hasselhoff becomes a beach detective, the concept was short-lived (via IMDb). The world may never know the real reason we don't see these food mascots anymore, but for a brief moment, avocado lovers everywhere could enjoy a moment in the California sun.